PWC Buying Guide: Jet Skis, WaveRunners, Sea-Doos - hiseadock
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PWC Buying Guide: Jet Skis, WaveRunners, Sea-Doos

June 25, 2020
Riding a jet ski on a river
Source: Pixabay

When it comes to choosing a personal watercraft (PWC), widely known as a jet ski, you will find a  lot of options in the market.  There are many things you need to consider when buying the best jet ski. For beginners, these things can be quite overwhelming. Also, PWCs are not cheap. This makes it even more important for you to choose a jet ski that will last you ages.

In this blog, we are going to discuss the most important things you need to know when choosing a PWC. These include the types of PWCs and important tips to consider before buying either a new or a used PWC.

Table of Contents

Types of Jet Skis

Let us start our discussion with the different types of jet skis you can choose from based on model and rider position.

All of the major brands of personal watercraft offer machines in different categories with each category having its own unique purpose. It is crucial for you to understand the features of each category to make sure that what you get matches your specific needs and riding skills.

There are 5 major categories of PWCs based on model.

#1 Performance

The jet skis in this category offer the most powerful engines that are excellent for experienced riders who are planning to race on the waters. Their engines can reach up to 130 km/h in under 3 seconds only. However, this speed voids the jet ski’s warranty. Performance PWCs offer additional power that is not needed unless you are racing. Thus, they are not for first-time riders.

Here are some performance jet skis offered by the most popular PWC brands:

Kawasaki: Ultra 310LX (fastest with a 130 km/h top speed)

Yamaha: VXR (105 km/h), GP 1800 (115 km/h)

Bombardier: GTR 230 (105 km/h)

Pros

Fastest engines

Ideal for racing

Cons

Not recommended for newbie riders

Kawasaki Ultra LX
Source: Kawasaki

#2 Luxury

A luxury personal watercraft is ideal for riders who want to upgrade their first jet skis into a more comfortable one with added power. They offer the largest engines with top speeds reaching up to 65 MPH. But, just like other luxury vehicles, luxury jet skis are expensive.

Source: Pinterest

Below are the products offered by the major brands in this category:

Kawasaki: Ultra 310X

Yamaha: FX HO, FX, SVHO

Bombardier: GTX 155, GTX Limited 300

Pros

Largest engines

Comfort

Power

Stability

Cons

A bit pricey (you need to pay for the accessories you get)

#3 Tow-Sports

For now, Sea-Doo is the only brand that offers tow-sport jet skis. They have Wake Pro 230 and Wake 155 which are specially designed for riders who do pull sports such as wakeboarding and tubing. Sea-Doo’s Wake 155 was intended for hobbyists. Meanwhile, its Pro 230 has more stability and a stronger engine that you can drive up to 60 MPH.

Pros

Perfect for tow sports enthusiasts

Has a wakeboard holder

Ski Pylon feature raises the rope higher and away from the pump

Offers different driving modes

Cons

Sea-Doo’s Wake 155 ($11,999) is not much cheaper compared to its Pro version ($14,699). Thus, many would recommend buying Wake Pro 230 instead of Wake 155.

Sea-Doo Wake 155
Source: Slubne-Suknie

#4 Recreation

This is the most famous personal watercraft category. Most rentals offer recreation jet skis which offer more stability compared to rec-lites but with the same nimbleness. They offer speeds from 42 to 62 MPH and have better options for storage compared to rec-lites. They are also fantastic options for families.

Kawasaki Jet Ski Ultra 310LX
Source: Kawasaki

Each of the top 3 PWC brands offers multiple recreation jet skis:

Kawasaki: Ulta LX, STX-15F

Yamaha: VX, VX Limited, VX Cruiser HO, VX Cruiser, VX Deluxe,

Bombardier: GTI 90, GTI 130, GTS, GTI Limited 155, GTI SE 155, GTI SE 130

Pros

More storage space

Nimbleness

Stability

Cons

Does not offer speeds as some buyers expect

Does not handle larger models

#5 Rec-Lite

The Rec-Lite jet ski category was introduced by Bombardier through its Sea-Doo Spark personal watercraft in 2014. They are available in 2 and 3-seater versions and can operate at speeds of 40 to 50 MPH. They are also the most budget-friendly versions of PWCs, making them an ideal option for those who are new to jet skis. Yamaha has 3-seater rec-lite PWCs (EX series) while Kawasaki does not offer products under this category.

Pros

Nimbleness

Affordable

Lightweight (especially Sea-Doo Spark)

Cons

Not stable

Smaller size

Uncomfortable seating (lacks cushioning)

Sea-Doo Spark
Source: Pinterest

Categories of Jet Skis

When choosing a jet ski, you will also be given an option whether you want a sit-down or a stand-up one.

Stand-Up Jet-Skis

If you want to go on a solo ride, then stand-up jet skis would be perfect for you. However, take note that they are much more difficult to ride compared to sit-down jet skis because you are forced to stand. They have a steep learning curve so they are not recommended for inexperienced or newbie riders.

Stand-up jet skis offer a different experience compared to sit-down jet skis. They are more engaging because they require great finesse and balance while riding. However, only two stand-up PWCs are available in the market – one each from Kawasaki and Yamaha.

Source: Pixabay

Pros

Smaller size

Easier to transport and store

Their simple build makes them easier to maintain

Ideal for racing and doing jet ski tricks

Cons

They only allow one rider

Cannot be used for towing

Difficult to ride at first

Only 2 models are available

Sit-Down Jet-Skis

Most personal watercrafts available in the market are sit-down jet skis. They are easier to ride compared to stand-up jet skis. Thus, allowing for more people with different riding abilities to join the fun of jet ski riding. One of the biggest advantages of sit-down jet skis is their large size which can accommodate 2-3 riders.

Sit-down PWCs can also be used for towing which makes them an excellent alternative if you cannot afford a boat. Moreover, some of the fastest and most powerful PWCs are sit-down jet skis. They can offer up to 70 MPH and 300 horsepower. They also offer spacious storage compartments.

Pros

Easier to ride

Affordable and more comfortable to ride

Can accommodate more people

Ideal for towing and long-distance rides

Available in 44 models

Cons

They cannot perform tricks that a stand-up jet ski can

They are heavy and thus require bigger trailers and more space

Sit-down jet ski
Source: Pixabay

New vs Used: Which Jet Ski Should You Buy?

Jet ski riding in the ocean
Source: Pixabay

Your decision whether to buy a new or pre-owned personal watercraft will depend on your budget and needs. Below is a comparison of the pros and cons of new and used PWCs.

.

New PWCs

Used PWCs

Pros

  • No need to think about previous damages 
  • You can choose from the latest models featuring the latest improvements for your specific needs
  • They come with warranties to give you peace of mind
  • Less expensive compared to new PWCs
  • If you want to own multiple PWCs, buying a used one can be a good way to practice your riding skills and get used to financial responsibilities such as maintenance and insurance before buying a new one

Cons

  • More expensive compared to pre-owned jet skis
  • Need careful inspection for damages
  • More maintenance services needed which can be costly

Tips Before Buying a New Jet Ski

Here are some important tips we can give you before choosing your own personal watercraft.

jet ski riding vacation
Source: Pixabay

#1 Create an Outline of Your Preferences

Do not be impulsive when buying a new PWC. Set a price, know your preferences, and choose a specific date to shop. Creating a rough draft of these things will make a big difference during the buying process. Do not settle for a PWC because it is cheap but do not be pressured to buy more than what you really need.

Without having an outline of your preferences, you might buy unnecessary accessories that you did not originally want. Knowing when you should buy is also crucial because there are seasons that manufacturers offer promotions. You might get better deals during the fall and spring seasons because it is during these times that dealerships clear their inventories.

#2 Know the Basics of Riding a Jet Ski

Analyzing your PWC riding skill level is important before you get very excited and run down to a dealership. You do not need to be that experienced in riding a PWC before you can buy a new one but it is always good to learn the basics of jet ski riding first. This is important to help you narrow down your options. .

PWCs come in a wide variety of styles, makes, and models. Learning to ride a PWC will help you  make a more educated buying decision..

Jet ski watercraft
Source: Pixabay
Jet ski on a beach
Source: Pixabay

#3 Know the Latest Prices of Jet Skis

Staying informed about the latest PWCs can help you get good deals on the new jet ski you are eyeing for. Make sure that you are updated on the recent prices. Do not agree to unfair prices. Most of the current PWC prices range from $5,000 to $18,000 which is quite a large price gap so it is important that you are educated on the prices of specific PWC models.

Also, the prices of new PWCs may change in every season. Thus, we recommend that you check the website of manufacturers for their current offers. Do not simply agree to the prices that the salesmen at your dealership offer.

#4 Buy Useful Accessories for Your Jet Ski

Most PWC accessories are not that important but you will find some items useful for your new PWC. These items include marine GPS, life jackets, and jet ski covers. You can pick up many great accessories at dealerships. However, you need to check their prices because there are some that are significantly marked up.

Jet ski cover
Source: Pixabay
Jet ski dock

#5 Consider Installing a Jet Ski Dock

You might also want to consider installing your own jet ski docking station to make your trips on the water easier.  You can either choose to have a fixed or a floating dock. But, if you are not sure which one is right for you, you can check out this comparison between fixed docks and floating docks

The major difference between a fixed dock and a floating dock is that floating docks are temporary so you can easily remove and store them when you don’t need them. Floating docks are also cheaper compared to fixed docks.

If you want to build a floating dock, you can rely on Hiseadock – a professional manufacturer of plastic floating dock systems for more than 10 years. We offer customizable docks in different models and sizes to match your specific requirements. Feel free to reach out to us for a free consultation.

#6 Consider Insurance Costs

Some insurance companies may offer you better plans compared to others so make sure to check your options. PWC owners can usually expect insurance costs from $100 to $500 per year. But of course, the price will depend on different factors. Below are the key criteria that will determine how much you will be spending on your PWC’s insurance:

Your jet ski’s current value

Model, make, and year of your jet ski

Engine type and horsepower

Any modifications you made to your jet ski

History of previous insurances

Aside from the ones mentioned above, insurance companies may include other standards too so it is recommended to make a phone call first and get a quote for your jet ski’s insurance. You can also read on these effective tips on jet ski maintenance to help prolong the lifespan of your new watercraft.

Source: Pixabay

Tips Before Buying a Used Jet Ski

For experienced riders, buying a used PWC is not a problem. But for beginners, there are a lot of things you need to consider. So to help you get away from bad deals, here are a few tips you should know.

#1 Don’t Be Too Impulsive

Being too eager when buying a PWC is a big mistake commonly made by people. Although it is tempting to go and buy a PWC especially during summer, it is important to stay patient. This is because you might make bad decisions. When you are planning to buy a used PWC, you need to do thorough research on your options first to make sure that you will get a good deal.

#2 Water Test the Jet Ski

Whether you are buying a new or a used PWC, it is important to water test it first. Aside from making sure that the PWC actually runs properly, water testing allows you to feel its performance and how comfortable you are in riding it. A salesman or dealer may tell you that the PWC runs well but do not ever make a purchase without water testing it successfully.

Check that all gauges work properly and no warning lights are on. See to it that the PWC can maintain a healthy RPM when operated at full throttle.

Source: Pixabay

#3 Consider the Costs of a Used Jet Ski

You can easily find the current prices of used PWCs online. Try to check your local market too and look for similar models and makes. Another tip is to take your PWC to a dealership. They will often give you a reasonable estimate and some are even willing to run tests on it to make sure that it is working properly. But, take note that they are still dealers so expect their opinions to have some biases.

You should also consider buying more affordable options. Most of the time, first-time buyers consider used PWCs because they think that they are cheaper compared to new ones. But, not all brand new PWCs are expensive because there are also some amazing affordable options like Sea-Doo’s Spark which only costs $5,399 and Yamaha’s EX series starting from $6,699. These are only 2 of the most popular models but you are free to check other options.

These cheap PWC models come with the latest features with excellent performance. Although buying a used PWC is a good option, it is not your only option because purchasing a new one is actually more affordable because you don’t need to think about maintenance costs.

#4 Consider Hidden Costs

All PWCs, especially used ones, have hidden costs. So when you set your budget, leave some for these. Below are some of the primary hidden PWC costs:

Insurance – The insurance of a PWC can vary depending on its engine type, make, model, and the rider’s history.

Maintenance – The bulk of your budget when buying a used PWC will probably be that of maintenance costs which can fluctuate greatly, making it hard to have an exact estimate. But at the minimum, you should consider winterization and oil change costs.

Trailer – You will need a trailer to transport your PWC so you should incorporate it on your budget. However, the cost of a trailer can be surprising to some considering that it can range from a hundred to thousands of dollars.

Accessories – This is the smallest hidden PWC cost. There are a lot of great PWC accessories in the market but only a few are really useful such as life jackets, seat covers, and anchors.

Jet skiing at Ebro River
Source: Pixabay

#5 Check for Damages

A little ding, dent, or scratch on a PWC is fine but if there are a lot, it is not a good sign. Before you buy a used PWC, make sure that you have inspected it thoroughly for damages. A simple dent in its hull can lead to costly leaks. Below are the major damages you need to check.

Waverunner personal watercrafts
Source: Pixabay

Corrosion & Rust – Do not buy a used PWC with signs of corrosion or rust around its pump or engine. This can cause problems in the long run.

Seat Damage – Cracking or dry rotted seats indicate that the PWC was not covered when it was stored. Covers are affordable so if the seats are damaged, it implies that the previous owners were careless when storing their watercraft. Moreover, do not buy PWCs with heavy seats as these can cause engine problems in the future.

Hull Damage – Avoid buying used PWCs with marks bigger than one quarter. A few scratches and dings on the hull’s side are not an issue but if they are on the hull’s bottom, this might be a problem, especially if there are fiberglass damages.

#6 Consider Hours Used

The number of hours of a pre-owned PWC indicates how much it has been used, just as mileage is to a car. A PWC usually has 30 hours/year on average. Anything higher than 30 hours are called “high hours” and lower values are called “low hours”. But it does not mean that a PWC having high hours will not run properly. If it was well-maintained, it can still operate without any issues.

Below are the key things you need to look at when analyzing how much a pre-owned PWC was used.

The Type of PWC – Generally speaking, a PWC with a 2-stroke engine and a supercharged engine has a shorter service life compared to other options.

Make & Model – A lot of used PWCs you will find nowadays are from companies that are already out of production like Wetbike, Polaris, Tigershark, and Honda. Beware of these models because they are more likely to break down compared to others and you will have a hard time finding parts.

Maintenance Receipts – Ask for maintenance receipts from the previous PWC owner such as receipts for part replacements, spark plugs, and oil filters. Through this, you will be able to know if the PWC has been properly maintained.

Who Maintained the PWC – Was the PWC maintained by a dealer or the owners themselves? There is no problem if the owners did basic repairs but if they have done major fixes, this might not be good, especially if they do not have any credentials.

Which Parts Were Replaced – It is okay if a few minor parts were replaced. However, major components should not be replaced such as the PWC’s hull.

Jet ski racing
Source: Pixabay

Popular Jet Ski Brands

Once you have familiarized yourself with the basics of PWCs, it is time to choose what brand of PWC you will be buying. The three most popular brands in the market are Kawasaki’s Jet Ski, Yamaha’s WaveRunner, and Bombardier’s Sea-Doo. Here, we are going to discuss the prices, pros, and cons of each brand to help you choose the best one.

Kawasaki Jet Skis

For riders who prioritize power and who want to get an adrenaline rush on the waters, Kawasaki would be your best option. It is the most popular manufacturer of PWCs. In fact, all recreational PWCs are generally called jet skis.

Kawasaki’s PWCs offer the most powerful engines that are ideal for racing and include features that other brands do not have such as heat resistant seats and built-in speakers. The catch is, jet skis are not for consumers with tight budgets because they are expensive.

Price

Highest: $17,999

Lowest: $9,699

Kawasaki Jet Ski
Source: kawasaki.com

Pros

Ideal for thrill-seekers

Fastest personal watercrafts

Heat-resistant seats

Built-in speakers

Wide variety of recreation PWCs

Cons

Most expensive PWCs in the market

Does not have rec-lite PWCs

Not recommended for newbie riders

Yamaha WaveRunners

As a well-known corporation, Yamaha has built a reputable PWC brand – the WaveRunner. They can ensure the reliability of their products with their years of experience in the industry. Their WaveRunners are perfect for families and since Yamaha is a huge company, finding mechanics and parts for your jet ski is not an issue.

When it comes to maintenance, the engines of WaveRunners are durable so maintenance is manageable on your own. Through this, you can cut down on your expenses. Though WaveRunners are more expensive compared to Sea-Doos, the WaveRunner’s durable engine, fuel efficiency, safety features, and excellent braking system will be worth your money.

Price

Lowest: $6,599

Highest: $16,899

Pros

Recommended for families with kids

Excellent braking system

Great safety features

Easy access to mechanics and parts

Durable engines

Fuel efficiency

Cons

Limited model range

Source: yamahawaverunners.com

Bombardier Sea-Doos

Sea-Doo is the oldest brand of jet-propelled PWCs. It was invented by a popular motorcycle racer and looked like a water ski, but powered. Due to the affordable prices, light weight, and easy controls of Sea-Doos, they are great options for newbie riders and buyers who are on a tight budget.

You can also upgrade your jet ski if you want but the price will be the same as Yamaha’s WaveRunners after you have paid for all of the upgrades. But, Sea-Doos are still generally cheaper.

Price

Lowest: $5,299

Highest: $15,499

Bombardier Sea-Doo
Source: Pinterest

Pros

Affordable

Lightweight

Easy to maneuver

The only option if you want certain features on your jet ski (e.g. Spark Trixx for performing tricks)

Cons

The base models lack key upgrades

Frequently Asked Questions About Jet Skis

#1 Am I required to have a license to drive a jet ski?

Personal watercrafts are regarded as small vessels so the same federal and state laws apply to them. But, these laws may vary depending on where you are located and other factors such as:

Top speed/horsepower

Passenger capacity

Manufacture date

Length

Your age

#2 What is the fastest jet ski?

The three fastest PWC’s are:

Sea-Doo RXP-300

Kawasaki Ultra 310LX

Yamaha WaveRunner FX Series

#3 What is the maximum speed of jet skis?

The fastest PWC speed recorded was 92 MPH on a Benelli jet ski  However, the maximum speed of the majority of PWCs ranges from 65 MPH to 70 MPH.

#4 Do I need jet ski insurance?

The requirements for jet ski insurance differ by state. In some places, they would require basic insurance coverage before you can operate on public waterways. Make sure that you know the applicable regulations in your place before operating a jet ski. But regardless of whether having insurance is required in your place, we still recommend getting jet ski insurance.

#5 How much do I need to insure my jet ski?

Insuring your jet ski will generally cost from $100 to $500 a year but this will depend on many factors such as your location and your jet ski’s model, manufacture date, maximum speed, and engine horsepower.

#6 What are the things covered by jet ski insurance?

PWC  insurance usually covers the following:

Basic trailer

Towing your jet ski in case you need to transport it

Liability for water sport activities and towing skiers

Injuries you get from accidents caused by an uninsured boater

Physical damages to your jet ski

Death or bodily injuries you are responsible with

Damages you caused to the property of another person

Conclusion

Riding a jet ski is a great way of getting an adrenaline rush in the waters. However, how much enjoyment you will have will depend on the jet ski you are riding so you need to make sure that you buy one that fits your actual needs. Lastly, always prioritize your safety before going on a ride, especially if you are a beginner. Hopefully, this guide was able to help you find your ideal personal watercraft.

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